tv Tavis Smiley WHUT February 10, 2011 8:30am-9:00am EST
tavis: good evening. from los angeles, i am tavis smiley. first up tonight, what the uprising in egypt means for the rest of the world. 84 and affairs columnist for "financial times" in london is with us -- a foreign affairs columnist. he has a book, "zero-sum future ," gideon rachman. also with us, grammy award winner john legend is here, and he is up for several more.
>> all i know is his name is james, and he needs extra help with his reading. >> i am james. >> yes. >> to everyone making a difference -- >> thank you. >> you help us all live better. >> nationwide insurance supportswith every question and every answer, nationwide insurance is proud to join tavis in working to improve financial literacy and remove obstacles to economic empowerment, one conversation at a time. nationwide is on your side. pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. [captioning made possible by kcet public television] tavis: gideon rachman works for "financial times" in london, following a 15-year career with "economist," and his new book is called "zero-sum future."
he joins us from new york. gideon rachman, good to have you with us tonight, sir. >> good to be here. tavis: for the balance of your career, for the most of your career, you have felt like you were covering a world that was steadily improving, and you suggest in the text that you no longer feel that way. talk to me about why you feel that way in this age of anxiety, getting more into the text. >> yes, i started working in the mid-1980s, and so, you know, perhaps the most dramatic event of our era was in 1989, the fall of the berlin wall, the collapse of the communist empire, in the rejoining of huge numbers of companies -- and the rejoining of a huge number of countries. you site transformation of economies in asia, india, -- you
saw the transformation of economies. this was a period of optimism, really up until the financial crisis, with the troubles of 9/11, with western europe doing well, and when western power, particularly after the collapse of the berlin wall, this is the 20 years of one moment, and we are in a much more troubling era, and as a result, political, as well. there are new rivalries emerging, which ismy book. tavis: what is going on in egypt, does that go more towards the world is getting better or worse? >> well, we will see, will we not? if things worked out well, then it does in some sense fit into what i call the age of optimism. before 2008, characterized by the belief of the spread of democracy, the spread of markets. in theory, egypt, africa, the
european union, becoming a more prosperous society, but i do not have to tell you, of course, there are enormous questions about whether, in fact, that is happening, and we are discovering the limits of western power, u.s. power and influence in the events. we have some power, but we are basically by standards. more on the worrying side of the equation, we are seeing social unrest in the world, particularly in egypt, link to rising food prices, and that type of commodities shot is something i think we will be living with for a long time. -- that type of commodities' shock. tavis: you think the situation can be hopeful. tell me more why you think that way. >> as any kind of human being, you have to some way warm to the site of people overthrowing a dictatorship, and if, and it is
a big if, if they are able to move towards a freer society and sustain a democracy, it means as individuals, they will be freer, and the economy will work much better, because there war low living standards -- there were low living standards, and this is what we all hope for in the arab world, giving way to more democratic, free economies, these transitions are never snows, and egypt could go in either direction -- these transitions are never smooth. it could turn into a theocratic, an iranian-type state. tavis: finally, on egypt, we in the west have been preoccupied about egypt, vis a vis our relationship with that nation, what it means for us. tell me know what what happens
in egypt matters for the rest of the world. >> well, this is the pacesetter in the arab world. it has traditionally been the country, a very large country, a lot of ideologies, whether nationalism, communism, or even al qaeda in egypt, so what happens there happens and napp and -- to a huge part of the world. i do not need to remind you that there is a war going on in iraq, oil supplies from the middle east, so the matter how much we try to concentrate on other things, being too preoccupied by the middle east, it is a part of the world that is absolutely essential to western interests, and for us, as europeans, in my part of the world, as well, so in north africa, it could wash all over europe. tavis: you argue quite persuasively and aggressively in this book, that is to say, you
debunk this notion that democracy is inherently decide to cooperate and work with each other. there is no reason to believe that if egypt moves and the direction that we think they should move that they are under a leadership that will be cooperative to us. >> absolutely. i think, quite likely, it will be the reverse. i think there is a naïve assumption in the united states that the answer to your foreign- policy problems was the spread of democracy. i think the spread of democracy is a good thing itself, but if you look at climate change, the u.s. is up there, and it found that countries like india, brazil, turkey were actually siding with the chinese viewpoints, rather than the democracy ideas of the united states. national views matter enormously, but coming back to egypt, if you look at opinion polls, these are very anti- american countries.
so a more democratic egypt could quite likely be a much less friendly country to the united states. >> so unpack this title for me, "zero-sum future." >> yes, what i was trying to look at what i wrote the book is the consequences of the shock we just went through. the reason i used to that title, "zero-sum future," it is actually a phrase we hear from leaders across the world. hu jintao warned about zero-sum thinking, and president obama also said when he went to china, "we do not see the world as a zero-sum game." what they are both saying is that gains in prosperity and power for china in this case need not come at the expense of the united states. i am slightly challenging that.
or rather, i am saying in the aftermath of economic crisis, it does look bright on the u.s. and china particularly that a richer and more powerful china does actually challenging united states in both economic and political ways. there are some good developments. creative leadership might be a way to reestablish cooperation. the reason a zero-sum feature it is that i think we are moving to an era of international rivalries, u.s./china at the center of it, but probably also the european union, and the diplomats, the global government, efforts to find solutions to a whole range of issues like nuclear proliferation and food prices and economic development. they are all stuck, and they are all stuck for a reason, because countries cannot find common solutions because their national interests keep batting up against each other. tavis: that said, whether or not
there are some rules of engagement, for lack of a better term, that ought to be abided by in this rivalry that seems between the u.s. and china. >> yes, i think the interesting thing is that there are rules of engagement. i think they are stuck, but i think they are coming under increasing strain. there, international trade rules, but even in the obama administration, they are looking at breaking the world, for example, on currency, and the question is, does america retaliate -- they are looking at breaking the rules. does it change the currency? other countries are doing things. brazil, thailand, putting in capital controls, which, again, has eaten away at the structure of a globalized economy, and i think they're coming under
strain, economically and politically in other areas. tavis: i have got two minutes to go, do me a favor and kind of topline what the book revolves around, the age of transformation, the age of optimism, and the age of anxiety. >> 1978 to 1991, that is what we created the globalized, capitalized world. it started in 1978, and it has moved away from communism, and it ended with india in 1991, and you have a global capitalistic system where the powers are participating. 1991 to 2008, all of the world's major powers, the u.s. has had its unipolar moment, the european union pretty of the moment -- optimistic, as well, and then you get this economic crisis of 2008, and the age of anxiety begins, because i think
a lot of the assumptions, particularly that we in the west have, the spread of democracy, free markets, and they are all in question, and, therefore, i think economically we are worried about the challenges to our position as a power in the world. tavis: finally, is it fair to say then that american power in this age is going to wane? >> i think it is inevitable. frankly, the process was going on before 2008 with the rise of china and india, but i think what the focus has been is within about 10 years, the chinese economy is likely to be larger than that of the united states, and unavoidably, that has big implications. tavis: what is a provocative new text, called "zero-sum future," written by the chief foreign affairs commentator for the "financial times." gideon rachman.
no more sleeping in bed no more backward thinking time for thinking ahead the world has changed so very much, from what it used to be ♪ tavis: 10 depending grass. that is a lot of nerve, john legend -- teddy pendergrass. it obviously sounds good. witness the five grammy nominations. >> we started working on it back in 2008, and you know what was going on in 2008. we ran out getting people to vote, and doing rallies around the country, and i was finishing my album, a normal release. and as i was finishing it, i was
rallying people and getting them inspired to get involved. we wanted to do something at these rallies, so we decided to put together these projects, and we went with the roots, to cover some of the great social- movement music, civil-rights music, political-protest music, and updated for a new generation, so that is what we did. tavis: why the roots? >> it is an easy answer. tavis: why the roots? >> they are one of the best bands in the business. when i was in philadelphia going to school, i went to the university of pennsylvania, they were running the scene in philadelphia, and i always wanted to work with them.
i gave them my demo all of the way back then. they never listened, but i gave it to them back then. this is the perfect project for them to get together with the sensibility. knowing so much about music history, i just felt that he was the perfect person to work with, and i was right, i think. tavis: more than right. we will follow you in, since you went there. >> we get a lot of demos. i do not have time to listen to most of them. if the right people hid it to you, you will be more inclined to listen, -- if the right people hand it to you. you feel it has been endorsed by the right person, then i feel i am more inclined to listen to it.
going to shows, be on the street. shopping on rodeo, and he gave me a cd, so you get it at all places. tavis: for those of you know, you are shopping on rodeo. john legend. he is shopping on rodeo. not "roe-deo," "ro-day-oh." you were talking earlier about how you made the right decision. we feel pretty good about our decision back on the show in 2003, 2004. who john legend was. >> i think i played the piano back then. tavis: yes. that thing was so huge.
everybody came to know you when you first came on the scene. i did not know, and none of the rest of us knew, that you were so political, social activist. you le us get to see the complexity of who you are once he became a star, or over this journey, something has happened to cause you to be more aware? >> i was always a political junkie, even when i was a kid. i would read the civil-rights leaders, martin luther king, booker t. washington. i would read about them for fun. my mother would take me to the library, and those would be the books that i would pick out, because i guess i wanted to be inspired by great leaders who did great things, and black leaders made me proud to see black people do something amazing that made the world chan, so i cared about that as a kid. i cared about civil rights and social justice, the idea that
the world can be changed and made better by people who are willing to take risks and fight for what is right. i have always believed inbev, and that has left me interested in what is going on -- and i a always believed in that. that has left be interested in what is going on -- and i always believed. it is something i have always paid attention to. i have grown in stature and in the public consciousness, and giving me more opportunities to speak out, but i have always been thinking about it, and i have an interest in what is going on politically. tavis: i personally think that dr. king is the greatest american we have ever produced. he is up there? but you mentioned king a moment ago, and king could take risks, but king could not sell records.
i raise that to ask whether or not there is a price that you pay as an artist for being as outspoken as you are about so many issues now. >> i am not sure how to quantify it, but i am sure there is somebody out there who does not like what i said. tavis: they might not by my right -- your records. >> they may not buy my records. maybe they are a conservative. maybe they are a conservative. maybe they are a teacher. i feel it is a risk i willing to take. i feel that the stakes are high enough that i care about that it is worth losing a few record sales. i am going to be fine, but the people we are working to help, they may not be fine. tavis: tell us some other stuff on here, how you made those choices. >> we picked songs from some
huge artists, some people who were well known. we did a marvin gaye song, "holy holy," and there are some that maybe people do not know so well. there was one that is written by curtis mayfield, and this guy was a big guy, passed away after his first album, very young, from chicago, and he had this very korea album that not a people know about, -- had this very korea album that not a lot of people knew about -- this very cool album. tavis: socially conscious. >> super fly. a great album. he is one of my favorite artists. you listen to the sound, the sound stage that he created, as an orchestrator and as a songwriter and as a vocalist, as well -- you listen to the sound,
the soundscape. that feeling that he created was such a powerful feeling. it was kind of bassbadass. -- badass. he made some of the best music that i've ever listened to, and i listened to him quite a bit. tavis: i do not want to put you in a position to criticize other artists, but given that we are living in such serious times with such vexing issues whether you are in any way disappointed or just crave a more socially conscious music? >> i am craving more soul. i increase the more truth. just people who are aware of what is going on in the world -- i in craving more truth. -- i am. artists make decisions.
they are trying to get their singles play on the radio. they are trying to sell a lot of records. right now, it is kind of that club sound, and everything feels like a rave. even the so-called r&b artists, they have got a club, something on their music, and that is what everybody is doing, and that is what is working on the radio, so sometimes are afraid to do something outside of that, because they are worried that if it does not work, they may not be able to have another album. you cannot blame them because people are buying fewer albums because of illegal downloading and all of these other options people have, that the record industry has contracted significantly, and with that comes a bit of fear of, you know, not selling. there is a risk that you will not do well, and i felt that,
knowing that those risks or there, i felt i had to do this album. tavis: does the pressure -- to your point now -- does the pressure, the people around you, and obviously the record label wants to sell records, does that in any way influence your songwriting, your choices, your material? >> well, you know, it is interesting. you know, i try not to think about the radio when i am writing a song. i want people to love the song. that means you might not be exactly thinking about the radio. "i want people to like the song after it is done." i think about that. i felt the answer to me is trying to make it the best it can possibly be, everything about it great, the production, the songwriting, the melody, everything, make it great, and then everything will work out. it has been working so far. tavis: it is working.
you have six grammys to prove it and five more granite nominations this year -- more grammy nominations this year. john legend. this sunday, the big show. thank you for being on the program. that is our show. see you next time. until next time, as always, keep the faith. >> ♪ make the old people well they are the ones to catch on of the -- catch all the hell ♪ >> visit tavis smiley on tbs.org. tavis: join me next time with an author. that is next time. we will see you then.
>> all i know is his name is james, and he needs extra help with his reading. >> i am james. >> yes. >> to everyone making a difference -- >> thank you. >> you help us all live better. >> nationwide insurance supports tavis smiley. with every question and every answer, nationwide insurance is proud to join tavis in working to improve financial literacy and remove obstacles of economic empowerment one conversation at a time. nationwide is on your side. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. [captioning made possible by kcet public television] captioned by the national captioning institute --www.ncicap.org- >> be more. pbs. >> be more. pbs.